Friday, November 03, 2006

Counting the Cost

In the past, whenever I have done what I am about to tell you, people raise their eyes to heaven and mutter 'Get a life Shirley, get a life!. Sadly, or not, this is my life and a good(e) life it is turning out to be.
Yesterday, I decided to work out the difference between the price of one small 220g can of butter beans, which I drained and counted, and the same number (not weight) of dried butter beans. .
Luckily for me the maths part was easy as the small can contained 44 beans, and the 500g pack of dried beans contained 440. This meant 10 cans of butter beans would have cost me £2.70p yet the same amout dried was only 80p. Nearly a £2 saving and no cans to dispose of.
Apart from red beans and chick peas, most dried, soaked and cooked beans taste very similar and are used mainly for the appearance so recipes can be mixed and matched.
All beans (except mung, aduki, split peas and lentils - they need 1 hour) should be soaked for at least 8 hours and then boiled for 10 minutes before simmering for up to an hour until cooked. After boiling they can be cooked on in a slow cooker.
Never season beans until after cooking as salt toughens their skins.
To save fuel/time/money cook a whole pack of soaked beans - the red ones and/or pinto beans for chilli con carne, mixed bean salads etc., butter beans to add to dishes and to make pates, and chickpeas - great in Moroccan dishes and to make hummus. There are many other pulses, but those three are my favourites. These are then drained, cooled under running water, and patted dry in a towel, spread over a baking tray and frozen - (they then break up into 'free-flow' to be bagged or boxed and kept in the freezer.
Red beans are said to contain the same amount of protein as meat. But to extract this you need to eat grains or an animal protein with pulses. So use less meat and more red beans in your chili for cost effectiveness.

Butter Bean Dip
Cooked butter beans (or any white beans)
Horseradish sauce, or Tabasco
olive oil, juice of 1 lime or lemon
salt and pepper,
crushed garlic (optional).
Put chosen amount of beans in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Flavour with a few drops of Tabasco and lime juice, or lemon and horseradish sauce. Garlic if you like. Season to taste. Pile into a small bowl and serve as a dip. The horseradish version makes a great sandwich with slices of roast beef.

Chicken and Butterbean Casserole
1 tblsp each olive oil and butter
4 chicken thighs or drumsticks
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 -3 rashers of bacon, chopped
sprigs of thyme and a couple of bay leaves
1 tblsp tomato puree
1/2 pint sliced mushrooms
1/2 pint cooked butterbeans
1/4 pint red wine and/or chicken stock
Put the oil and butter in a pan and fry the chicken pieces until golden. Remove to an ovenproof dish. Add the onion and bacon to the pan and fry until softened. Spoon these over the chicken. Add herbs and season to taste. Mix tomato puree with the wine and pour over, adding enough stock to cover. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook in the oven at 175C, 350F, Gas 4 for 90 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and beans and cook on for a further 15 minutes. Remove herbs before serving.
Tip: Serve the remaining wine with the meal, or freeze in ice-cube trays or small containers to use for later dishes.